A Conversation with Hamish Clark, Winemaker and Viticulturist for Saint Claire Family Estate

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Hamish Clark

Hamish Clark, Winemaker and Viticulturist from Saint Claire Family Estate

It just took one sip of the 2017 Saint Claire Family Estate wine for my stereotype of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs to completely shatter.  I have Hamish Clark, Winemaker and Viticulturist from Saint Claire Family Estate, to thank for that.

I met Hamish and Lon Gallagher, who is in Brand Public Relations for E&J Gallo Winery, at Princi Italia for a storytelling lunch to learn about Saint Claire Family Estate.

Saint Clair Family Estate is owned by Neal and Judy Ibbotson, who have been Marlborough wine pioneers since 1978.  They originally sourced grapes but saw an opportunity, due to the quality of their own vineyard, and established Saint Clair Family Estate in 1994.

The Saint Clair name originates from the vineyard property, first settled by James Sinclair who built one of the first homes in Blenheim and developed the town.  At that time, no grapevines were planted.  Over time, the name of the property changed to Saint Clair.

Hamish didn’t grow up with the love for wine in his blood.  Between high school and university, he took a job as a cellar hand before going to university to become a marine biologist.  He received BSC degrees in Microbiology and Zoology from Otago University in New Zealand. He then worked in the DNA Forensics Department with the Forensic Science Services at the Home Office UK as well as a Medical Laboratory Assistant in various hospitals across the continent.  Wine was a part of his life, but it was a passion verses a vocation.

When he returned home, a friend suggested he work a harvest.  He had a revelation and was pulled into the aura of the wine industry.  He was hired full-time and his appetite to learn got him quickly promoted through the ranks from Lab Manager and Cellar Hand in 2001, Assistant Winemaker and Lab Manager in 2002 and Red Wine Winemaker from 2003 until 2006.  Today, Hamish is the Senior Winemaker for Saint Clair Family Estates.

But let’s talk about the wine.  New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is not a wine that I reach for regularly.  But this 2017 Saint Claire Family Estate Sauvignon Blanc changed my perception.  It is balanced and has depth while being crisp and refreshing.  I tasted notes of pineapple, grapefruit, lemongrass, tropical fruit and a great minerality.

The Ibbotson’s wanted to create world-class wines that highlighted the mix of climate and soils of Marlborough.  Based on my love at first sip, they succeeded.

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